We hear that diversity improves business performance, but in practice, this opportunity is not always seized. Looking at the numbers, there is still a scarcity of women and other minorities in the workforce. Equal access to professional opportunities and work-life balance attracts and retains the talent we need to achieve the energy transition. Moreover, creating a safe and comfortable workplace for all is a basic responsibility of every employer.
ENGIE has a good track record on this. In 2012, the company was awarded the French Diversity Label. Two years later, it was extended to all ENGIE entities in France and we still hold it today. The playing field is a tough one, especially at the top. When my predecessor, Isabelle Kocher, became CEO in 2016, she was the only woman to lead a CAC 40 company. That did not change until April this year when Christel Heydemann of Orange joined me on the list: better, but two out of forty is not enough.
When I became ENGIE CEO, we committed to carbon neutrality by 2045. That target covers our energy use and our sales to maximise the reach of our climate action. Achieving this will not be possible without innovative solutions and new technologies. I have a conviction that new ideas are best generated from a variety of perspectives. ENGIE has been a leader to date, but we need to keep up the momentum on inclusion to achieve innovation. Gender balance is part of the diversity of perspectives that are much needed. In this respect, we have the ambition to achieve gender balance. Progress is underway: in 2021, our Executive Committee consisted of 36% women, our Board of Directors reached gender parity and we came 7th in a French Ministry for Equality listing for gender inclusion. We are also revising policies, increasing awareness at all levels, and working in partnerships to educate women from an early age.
While we are making progress on education, women still account for only 24% of employees in our data and software roles. This and other STEM fields are where innovation and new ideas make the biggest impact. To address this, we need to be better in attracting female talents towards these subjects. Elles Bougent – which promotes gender diversity in industrial and technological companies- is an example. ENGIE has been working with the organisation for 10 years to do just that. We also work with Innovations pour les Apprentissages to offer women work-study opportunities and aim for at least half of them to become full-time ENGIE engineers. Another differtiating factor of attraction at ENGIE is the move towards closing the gender pay gap. We were pleased to have reached in 2021 82/100 in the Professional Gender Equality Index for the International level and 89/100 in the Professional Gender Equality Index for France– a mechanism set by the French government to eliminate all gender inequalities in companies.
Attracting new talent is important, but we need to address inclusion in our current workforce too. The ENGIE Fifty-Fifty Programme aims to educate our employees to recognise and promote inclusive behaviours. In 2021, 400 ambassadors drove the programme across all the countries where ENGIE is present, involving 170,000 employees. We also launched the Fifty-Fifty Library – a platform providing resources about diversity in the workplace. In time, the Fifty-Fifty Programme will create a working environment that is consistent with our ambitions.
Gender is just part of the puzzle. We cannot forget about other areas for diversity. We have been pursuing proactive programmes in ableism and ageism alongside addressing inclusion in sexuality and culture. For example, we see that inter-generational cooperation combines the experience of older employees with a new mindset of the younger ones. We also recognise that employees with comfortable family life are better placed to innovate and find new solutions. We provide paid maternity and paternity leave for all, and when new parents come back to work we provide day-care places and support for carers.
All these measures help to create an environment of innovation and protect our people. In our fast-changing sector, diversity in all its forms is an asset. We must nurture diversity, it is the responsible thing to do for our people and our climate goals.
CEO of ENGIE